How to Get Your Baby to Nap Longer

Ah, naps. Sweet, sweet naps. We love them as adults. So why don’t babies feel that way, too? If you’ve ever wondered how to get a baby to sleep for a long time, you’re not alone. The most common sleep complaint I hear is “Why won’t my baby nap?”

Is this situation familiar to you? Your baby falls asleep for a nap only to wake up again around 30-45 minutes later. Trust me – it’s not just your baby. If you have a chronic cat napper at home and your baby is not sleeping properly at nap time, I have good news. Short naps can be explained and corrected. But let’s first explain why these short naps occur.

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We all sleep in cycles of light and deep slumber, also known as REM and non-REM sleep. When you cycle in and out of these phases we can wake up a little – something called partial arousal. Adults cycle in and out of sleep every 90 to 110 minutes but with babies it’s closer to every 45. A-ha! So how do we push them back into another sleep cycle? With some practice and a lot of patience.

We are all born with the ability to sleep but the ability to fall back asleep is a skill we must learn. We had to learn it and our children have to learn it. Picture it like any new skill: walking, talking, riding a bike. Babies need to practice. It’s up to us as parents to give them the chance to do so. At some point we have to let go of their hands and let go of the bike, right? Even though they may fall and cry.

4 steps to help get your baby to sleep longer:

  1. Don’t assume the nap is over when they wake after 30-40 minutes. It’s not. Stop. Wait. And listen. Let them practice soothing themselves to sleep first before you go to them. The only guarantee if you go to them right away is that they won’t fall back asleep and they won’t get that restorative sleep they need throughout the day.
  1. The darker the better. Darkening up your child’s room with black out shades can help with the release of that awesome sleep hormone melatonin, which will aid in making your baby nice and drowsy. (For a cheap and effective way to darken your child’s room RIGHT NOW, tape up some garbage bags. If you see that it works well then you can make the investment in new window coverings.)
  1. Quiet is best. Introduce a white noise machine that runs continuously throughout his nap. This consistent sound will help lull him into a deep and restorative sleep. All sound machines must be turned at the lowest volume and placed farthest away from the crib.
  1. Routine isn’t only for bedtime. You can incorporate a short naptime routine before your baby’s nap. I always recommend giving yourself at least 30 minutes to have a nice, relaxed bedtime routine. Condense this routine for naps to about 10 minutes or so. For instance bring baby to the nursery, dim the lights, change their diaper, and read 1 story. This can help cue baby that naptime is coming.

Naps are tough – I’m not going to lie. They can be one of the biggest struggles when working through baby sleep training. This is where I can help. Sometimes just having that added support during the process is what you need to help you through it. I can also help you get your child on a proper nap routine and schedule for their age.

It is possible, moms and dads. Your child can be that amazing napper that you’ve always wanted. With persistence and A LOT of consistency you can do it.

What are your nap successes or struggles? Share them in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

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Alanna McGinn is a Certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site.

By | 2018-04-16T13:57:47+00:00 April 12th, 2015|Baby Sleep, Naps, Sleep Science|6 Comments

About the Author:

Alanna McGinn is the creator of The Good Night Sleep Cleanse and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site a family sleep consulting practice helping babies to adults sleep better. Alanna and her global team are working with families to overcome their sleep challenges. You can follow her expert advice on The Marilyn Denis Show, The Goods, and Your Morning, and national publications like Today’s Parent, Maclean’s, Prevention, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning.

6 Comments

  1. Sabrina June 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Sometimes my daughter misses we afternoon nap. I try to put her to bed earlier when that happens. However when I do put her down for her bedtime she falls asleep right away but when I do put her in her crib she wakes 30 mins later. How do I get her to settle down and not cry for another 30 mins.

    • Alanna McGinn August 14, 2016 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Hi Sabrina. Great job on making bedtime earlier if the afternoon nap is missed. That is very important. It’s also really important to make sure that her sleep needs are being met consistently throughout the day. So let’s really focus on being consistent in offering her that afternoon nap. Also you may want to look at how you are responding to that 30 minute wake up. I’m not sure how old your daughter is but if she is old enough to start a more formal sleep training plan you may want to think about choosing the right method that works for your family and use that when she wakes. Good luck!

  2. Maria November 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    We have just started sleep training and bedtime is going great. She doesn’t really cry. Goes to sleep and wakes up for a scheduled feed at 4/430 and then sleeps till between 630&730. Naps on the other hand she seems to be crying a lot for and then taking short naps. In fairness we have just started, but is this normal? I feel like she can’t just keep having an hour of daytime sleep. I’ve been putting her down about 2 hours after morning wake up and second nap is about 3 hours after morning nap wake up. Yesterday she cried off and on for 50 minutes so we took her out and tried again 30 min later (this is what I had read to do) then she cried off and on for 30 minutes and slept for 30. She seemed really tired so we ended up putting her down for nap 2 after 2.5 hours. She cried for 20 (more so at/after check ins) and then again only slept for 30. Again, I know it’s early but I just wanted to know if it’s normal/ am I doing it right.

    Also, my daughter is 6months.

    Sorry for the novel! Thank you!!

    • Alanna McGinn December 23, 2016 at 11:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Maria! Naps unfortunatley can take awhile. When we are working with our clients we are following naps for up to two weeks to make sure the schedule and process are consistent. It’s so important in the first weeks. Keep up your great work and I know it’s hard, and we would be happy to help, but stay consistent with her routine and schedule and continue to give her the opportunity to do it on her own and she’ll get there. All the best!

  3. Dawn Maguire December 17, 2016 at 2:08 am - Reply

    My little guy is 5 months and use to always only sleep 30 min exactly (more recent they are occasionally getting a little longer) but he always wakes up sooo happy. He doesn’t cry. He will just lay there and coo and talk to himself (I’ve let him do this for up to an hour) If I go pop his soother back in then that’s when I can occasionally get him back down for an hour. When he wakes up happy though I always question why or if he needs to be encouraged to go back down.

    • Alanna McGinn December 23, 2016 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Dawn! It sounds like you guys are doing great! If he goes down well and everyone’s happy you can keep things as is for now but if you notice that this habit continues and this disrupted sleep begins to affect his mood during the day and causes disrupted sleep at night you may want to consider getting rid of the pacifier so he can start to fall asleep on his own.

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